By Maria Milligan
Jan 18, 2016

Scouting Builds Testimonies

For the past two years, the Utah National Parks Council has focused on a series of tools that help Scouters better communicate with LDS leaders. These tools grew out of two surveys conducted by RED research and Rushford Lee that asked LDS leaders what outcomes they wanted from Scouting and why they thought Scouting mattered to their youth. The results from these surveys were distilled into six pillars (or outcomes) for LDS Scouting, including building a testimony, learning to serve others, preparing to go on a mission, building confidence, learning life skills, and gaining integrity by understanding our true nature as children of God.

Since adopting the six pillars as a focus and mission statement, the Council has written and solicited articles from volunteers and professionals alike about each of these pillars. Here at The Boy Scout, we have focused on one pillar each month and have published and shared articles accordingly. As we enter our third year of this initiative, we want to look back at the articles we’ve published and highlight the best content for each pillar.

January’s theme is Testimony: Be prepared by developing a testimony of Christ and of the gospel while doing our duty to God and our country. Here are the top five articles from The Boy Scout about how Scouting helps young men develop a testimony of Jesus Christ and the restored gospel:

soldier featureHow Building a Testimony of Christ Prepared Me to Do My Duty

Joel Hood shares his experience of gaining a testimony of the gospel as a Scout and as a First Lieutenant in the Marine Corps and how that testimony has sustained him. He encourages all Scout leaders to strengthen their own testimonies so they can in turn help boys do the same.

Favorite quote from the article: “The most important thing our young men—our Scouts—must be prepared for is to face a society of decaying moral values, remain strong in their faith in God, and be a strength to their families and their church.  Failing to prepare the young men for the inevitable trials of conscience and integrity they will face is tantamount to throwing them to the lions. Developing a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way a Christian man can survive and thrive in today’s world.”

Scouts Reading FeatureTestimony-Building Experiences Happen Unexpectedly

Dave Pack draws on his experiences as a camp director and Scoutmaster to share how troop activities, done within the structure of a priesthood quorum, make boys living testimonies of the gospel. He shares the impact a senior patrol leader had on the other boys as he led scripture study each night at camp.

Favorite quote: “I spent the next several nights sitting outside their tent, listening to this troop of 12- and 13-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holders take turns reading from the scriptures to each other, teaching, and answering questions. I think I learned more than they did and I definitely cried more than they did. I was so grateful for an SPL that held Priesthood Keys and was inspired to encourage his quorum to add testimony-building experiences to a good camping program.”

mark 10 27Be Prepared by Developing a Testimony of Christ

Scott Major reiterates the central nature of Duty to God in the Scouting movement. Focusing on our duty to God first and always helps us see that everyone belongs to the same brotherhood, regardless of country, creed, or class. He quotes Bishop Gary E. Stevenson on the vital role Scouting plays in teaching boys to do their duty to God.

Favorite quote: “Young men learn to do hard things and when they stretch themselves to do hard things that they didn’t know they could do, they rely on a power greater than themselves.  This power can be in many forms but as I look back on my own Scouting experiences I realize that the power to stretch and grow was given to me from my religious leaders, my Scouting leaders, my parents, my troop and crew, and my Savior.”

campfire reflections featureReflections – Comparing temporal activities to spiritual lessons

Brad Harris shows the importance of having a reflection at each activity to tie temporal challenges, lessons, and experiences to spiritual truths. He shares the experience of a bishop who held a reflection at the campfire after a high adventure activity. This reflection turned into a testimony meeting that inspired even the less-active boys and adults to bear testimony in sacrament meeting about their experiences.

Favorite quote: “It was so effective and the spirit was so strong there that after the campfire as we were preparing to retire for the evening, some of the boys hung around my tent and wanted to talk. These young men wanted to clear up some of their transgressions and sins they had committed. Right there in the woods we had sincere confessions. These confessions and discussions in the woods, created a new path for each of these young men that led to their mission calls a few months later.”

Philmont rain featureBuilding Testimonies by Doing Hard Things

Dave Pack shares his experience as a bishop taking priests and teachers on a high adventure trip that challenged the boys physically, mentally, and emotionally. One boy in particular was ready to give up after persistent rain made a 25 mile backpacking trip even more difficult. He stuck with it though, and the spiritual lessons he learned changed his life.

Favorite quote: “Learning to do hard things doesn’t just happen. Sometimes it requires more; in this case, we had the tender mercy of a rainstorm that tested our resolve to finish. For Jared, the change from that experience came immediately upon overcoming the seemingly insurmountable challenge. For each of these Scouts, however, the most important outcome came as a result of this and a series of such experiences. Because of the testimony and confidence they gained in their youth, every young man from that teacher and priests quorum that participated went on a mission and was married in the temple.”

Have you seen Scouting help youth build their testimony of Christ? Tell us about it in the comments.

Maria Milligan


Author: Maria Milligan | Grant Writer, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.

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2 thoughts on “Scouting Builds Testimonies

  1. AvatarMasterKeyNatalieZ

    So sad that the focus on “outcomes” doesn’t focus on actually “doing” the right thing. – and in your banner and in your methods you have left out the Mothers and Daughters of God – in an LDS perspective the entire Book of Mormon changes without the Army of Heleman being taught by their Mothers. Sons and Daughters of God volunteer in this council – work in this council – parent in this council – and participate as Explorers and Venturers in this council and are ignored – you are taking this council into the dark ages – look for the lights they are shining from ladies and non-LDS Scouts alike – but only for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

    1. Maria MilliganMaria Milligan Post author


      I’m sorry that you feel this post is exclusionary. As the lone sister in a pack of brothers, I often felt left out of Scouting activities, so I understand the feeling. I just want to explain why this post is focused the way it is so you can see where I was coming from.

      Of course the goal to build testimonies is one that applies to boys and girls alike in the Church, and is a vital part of their spiritual progression. As we strive to serve our chartered partners, however, we only have stewardship over the young men in LDS troops, teams, and crews. So in our efforts to help LDS leaders use the Scouting program, we focus on boys because that is their focus in Scouting. The young women in the church have a separate program to accomplish these goals; one that we have no effect on nor control over.

      However, as a Council we do have programs and experiences tailored to young women. We have Explorer posts and Learning for Life programs, as well as coed Venturing crews that all include girls. None of these use the six pillars as a central point, however, since they are not sponsored by the Church and not all members are LDS. We also encourage Young Women groups to come to camp and are even sending an all-female Venturing crew to the National Jamboree next year, which is really exciting.

      As for ignoring the countless female volunteers, parents, and Scouters that make this Council run, I wouldn’t dream of it. In fact, many of our blog posts are catered to mothers of Scouts. I see the great work women do in this Council every day, and had no intention of ignoring it. I had hoped this post would help those of us involved in Scouting see that we can all help the young men in LDS chartered units gain a stronger testimony of Christ as part of our work.

      The six pillars are only part of our mission and efforts, but for the tens of thousands of LDS young men in our Council, we hope they are a vital part.



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